Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Adopting HIV+ Children

The other day USA Today put out a positive article on adopting HIV+ children. The article specifically mentioned AAI and highlighted some families that have adopted HIV+ children from AAI (including one of our staff members). At first I was so pleased to see this article. FINALLY a well written article about adoption. Not only adoption, but the "final frontier" of adoption--the adoption of HIV+ children. And then Merrily mentioned the comments.

There are about 7 pages of comments on this article now. The first 5 pages or so are full of hate, and ignorance, and selfishness. I have tried to just "get over it" but it is really eating at me. First, I really hurt for the family that I know (through cyberspace) that was highlighted in the article. They took a step that a lot of people don't take by sharing their children's HIV status in order to help educate the public. And thankfully the article was good. But so many hateful comments. It just breaks my heart for this mom, even though by now I'm sure she has very thick skin when it comes to ignorance and hate against her children.

I think this hit me because, although I have read about how families who adopt HIV+ children have to be prepared for this type of response, I've never seen it before. With this article, you could put yourself in these family's shoes (in your mind) and really feel what it would feel like for someone to be talking about your kids with such hate.

It's no secret that if Eric and I adopt again we are completely open to adopting an HIV+ child. So this article (or rather, the comments) was a sort of lesson for me I think. Most people just really don't have a clue about what HIV is and is NOT in today's world. Good grief--there are comments on the article about kids passing HIV off to one another on the playground! I have another friend who was basically asked not to bring her HIV+ child to the church nursery!

I'm sort of preaching to the choir here, because most people that read this blog probably know the basics of TODAY'S HIV. But just in case, here are a few things to note. These are the things that helped Eric and I realize that adopting an HIV+ child is totally doable for our family. Welcoming an HIV+ person into your inner circle should come with no concerns for your own safety.

**HIV only lives a few minutes (tops) outside of the body. Even in very highly concentrated blood samples in labs, 99% of the virus is dead by the time the blood dries. In a realistic sample of someone with HIV it's almost positively dead long before that.

**HIV isn't spread through kisses, hugs, sharing glasses, getting sneezed or snotted on, getting pooped or peed on. We take precautions with bodily fluids because of theoretical possibility, but not on case has ever been documented of HIV being transmitted through casual contact.

**You have to work hard to get HIV (unless you're having unsafe sex or sharing drug needles)! Get HIV infected blood on you? Not a problem. You'd have to get HIV+ blood mixed with your blood and going in your blood stream before the HIV dies in the blood for it even to be a POSSIBILITY.

**HIV is easier to control now than Type I Diabetes. This is really the one for me and Eric that make our decision "settle in." We deal with Type I Diabetes everyday and while hard sometimes, it is doable. We've always sayd we wouldn't hesitate to adopt a Diabetic child. HIV is WAY easier than Diabetes. AND the medications are better. Even the life span is longer for an HIV+ child who gets on ARVs early, than a Type I Diabetic!

**HIV+ kids can expect to grow up and have kids and grandkids. There will be extra precautions to take, but it's doable. They can have a "normal" life.

**The basics of HIV care are 2-3 medicines a day, and 4 doctor's visits a year. I think any parent should be able to handle that sort of "care regimen." We did something similar with Samren's care when he was sick (but way more involved). This basic care is NO BIG DEAL.

**No, we won't worry about our kids getting it. Or our family. Our our kids' friends. Universal Precautions are basic. Don't touch someone else's blood. You should never do that anyway, because of other stuff that could be going on in the blood that is a lot easier to catch than HIV!

No, the "big deal" about adopting an HIV+ child is all of the ingorance that you have to take on your shoulders. Even if you don't discose your child's HIV status to outsiders, comments like the ones on this article are still going to stink like alcohol in an open wound. In general conversations, if you don't disclose your child's status, you'll hear everybody's opinions on "those people" and "that disease" as if it were something nasty and dirty and un Christian.

The medical part of adopting an HIV+ child is the easy part. It's the emotional stuff that I know I still need to work on. It would be very hard for me to turn the other cheek if I were every "slapped" in the face with one of those hate-filled, ingorant comments.



Amalama 11:34 PM  

My stomach literally turned reading some of those comments. Ugly. Ignorant. Very scary.

I am very glad the article was written, as I'm sure MANY people with good hearts and misinformation were probably educated through it.

I really do wish that people weren't allowed to leave comments without leaving their REAL names- those comments would look different. Sure, the thoughts would still be in the minds of the ignorant, but at least the rest of us wouldn't be subjected to them!


Jenny 6:10 AM  

I know. The article was great. I said I wasn't going to read the comments, because they are never productive. But I couldn't help but read through a few pages. I didn't know whether to cry or puke. I think sometimes I can get so comfortable and safe feeling here in the online adoption world that I tend to forget that there are real life people who are this hateful.

I understand why they disclose their kid's HIV status, I really do. And, like you, if we were to adopt internationally again, I'd take a long hard look at HIV+ children. I'm actually kind of leaning towards it in the future....like way in the future. However, for us, for now, I think we would not disclose.

Heather A. 6:39 AM  

Amen. I cried when I read those hateful things. I'm stunned at such stupidity and hatred. I've been thinking about posting about the article myself, but just can't quite find the words. You spoke my heart sister.

Nicole - Raising Animals 11:37 AM  

I'm totally going to have to check out the article but skip the comments. For some reason I started to get choked up just reading about the hateful comments. I'm not going to go there.
I think when our time comes to do this adoption (and it's coming up!!) we will end up disclosing. Thank goodness there are great resources out there like Erin who have lived it.

whenpigsfly 12:08 PM  

Really good article, really human comments................human kindness, human ignorance, human selflessness and human fear:all manifestations of ones individual worldview. TRUSTFULLY articles like this, and more and more people actually MEETING and KNOWING people who have HIV/ AIDS will broaden that worldview which makes me cry and experience nausea along with the rest of you!! We have lived some of that ugliness 9and the kindness!) in our community since adopting a daugther who has Hep B. We did make our church aware of our baby's status before she came home, but we didn't broadcast beyond the immediate "need to know". Several families actually left our church because they didn't want their (immunized, uiversal precaution- practicing ) children anywhere near my infant daughter. 6 1/2 years later, 95% of those people are back actively in our lives. Most without apologies or explanations, but its my guess that the figured out "it" isnt so scary after all, and that my daughter was "ok"? Some did explain and it was embarrassing for them, they had to admit. A number have asked forgiveness for their attitudes. WORKS FOR ME, as long as its genuine and my daughter is in no way singled out in a negative fashion along the way. That's how we learn.
I guess in our openess to HIV in our current adoptions, I am hoping that the same people who wigged out so badly over our daughter's diagnosis 6 1/2 years ago will be more open them selves this time. More open, I hope, from having learned first hand that some of the "bugs" which go around our town are MUCH easier to contract than the "bugs" of worldwide renown which have been cause of so much fear and prejudice. I still expect flak (what a tidy word0 , so we have been pretty open in our openess so that people in our life circle will be learning from how we are living and approaching the possibility of HIV in our little community. Will we disclose IF our next child(ren) are HIV+? To those who really need to know, for purposes of medical treatment, prayer support, but as part of the "MEET Keren Jubilee and Samuel" annoucement? OH NO!

Mia's Mommy 1:02 PM  

Thank you for posting this. It too breaks my heart for the mother and of course the children who are stereotyped out of ignorance. Our family has had to deal with stupid people for some time. I hope when the time comes for us to adopt HIV+ my skin will be thick enough. If it's not, I'm willing to deal with the hurt for my child!

In His Dust 10:17 PM  

Yeah, I am totally amazed at people sometimes! It's very eye-opening some of the things people say! My stomach turned when I realized these types of ideas still exsist. To be honest, I was very misinformed about HIV/AIDS myself. I was never hateful, just scared. That was what was taught in our school was to be scared of HIV/AIDS. We were told "only a pinprick of blood containing AIDS will give you AIDS" Think how scared this will make a gradeschooler. This thought process carried on into adulthood b/c I had never heard any different until I started looking into it more and found out there is really nothing to be afraid of as long as you use the "universal precautions" you mentioned! I think it is great that you are posting this and educating people about what HIV/AIDS REALLY is.

Momto13 11:37 AM  

I loved the article when I saw it the other day- but I couldn't even get through the first page of comments. Why do people have so much time to be so hateful? Ugh.
Thanks for posting about this- ignorance breeds hate.
Love ya!

Katherine 10:12 AM  

Echoing everyone's comments. So grateful for the families that are stepping out and disclosing - oh my they need our prayers and am committed to that. Armed with the truth, this battle will be won.

All this made me think about the families that are stepping out and are choosing not to disclose. I need to remind myself of that and their privacy and do what I can to help protect those families. It may not just be HIV+ or Hep B, there are some children that have had trauma to deal with and I need to check myself in my zeal to encourage those to share or get together. Hope that made sense.